19 October 2005
By Lorraine King
By the time Craig Stein was in his teens, the list of A-list stars he danced with included Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.
Now at the ripe young age of 21, he is an old hand and major cast member in the acclaimed West End musical Fame, based on the hit 1980s TV programme.
He toured with Fame for more than a year and is now settled into life in theatreland.
Harlesden's answer to Billy Elliott, spoke exclusively to the Times about his 13-year career during which he has danced his way around the world.
That Craig uses his feet to make money is not a phenomenon in his family. His uncles Mark, Edwin and Brian, made their names in the world of football.
So why didn't he follow their footsteps?
Craig laughed. He said: "I've got two left feet when it comes to football. But when it comes to dancing, it's a different matter."
His genuine down-to-earth attitude helps him fit into his role as Tyrone, who is loosely based on Leroy, the TV programme's highly strung black dancer.
Craig said: "He's ghetto, hot-headed with an attitude. Frustrated because he's illiterate. but he uses dancing to channel his energy.
"I've grown up in a working-class family in Hackney and Harlesden, so I can play him realistically but not too harsh because the audience need to warm to him. Which they do."
Craig had the moves from an early age. But when he watched a voluptuous Janet Jackson on the television for the first time, he knew there was only one way to go.
He said: "She's got me this far in my career. She inspired me."
Born and raised in Shacklewell, Hackney, Craig spent long periods of his childhood at his gran's home in Harlesden. Eventually, in his late teens he settled in the area for good.
As a tender eight-year-old he attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School which produced the likes of Billy Piper and Emma Bunton.
His TV debut was singing and dancing with Michael Barrymore. But much to his mentor's dismay he turned down a place the London Studio Centre where actress Tamsin Outhwaite, who starred in EastEnders, studied, choosing instead to storm straight into the dancing world. He was just 16.
Immediately his talent was recognised and he was cast in musical Carousel alongside 1980s pop star Kid Creole. Craig said: "Everyone was getting excited except me. I didn't have a clue who he was."
Unlike many of his other counterparts, Craig has continuously worked within the fickle industry, including following boy band Blue on tour for two years, gyrating with Girls Aloud and featuring in the video for Charlotte Church's latest single Call My Name.
Despite the constant beam of the limelight, Craig is loyal to his roots, family and friends. He said: "I have kept all the friends I grew up with and I won't forget where I come from."
Harlesden and Hackney certainly won't forget Craig. If he has his way, speaking about his future, he said: "I would eventually like to set up a dance school in those areas. For everyone.
"I like to keep it real."
Fame the Musical is on at the Aldwych Theatre. For tickets call 0870 1451163.
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